In yet another incident for animal rights groups and horse-drawn carriage advocates to argue about, a carriage horse named Pumpkin got free of his bridle last night around 5:45 p.m. as he stood at the hack line at 59th Street. The horse, still pulling his carriage, ran into Central Park, leaving his driver behind.
The horse proceeded to run through his usual route along the park’s paths. At one point, according to NBC, a bicyclist jumped into the driver’s seat to try to stop him. Instead, Pumpkin sped up, eventually re-emerging onto 59th Street and then crashing his carriage into a cab door on Central Park South. A group of carriage drivers corralled the horse and took him back to his stables, where carriage driver and industry spokesperson Christina Hansen says he was examined and found to be unharmed. No one else was injured, except for the door of that cab.
Several people witnessed the incident, including, weirdly, Mets outfielder Matt den Dekker, who tweeted this:
Almost got ran over by a horse carriage running wild through the city.
— Matt den Dekker (@UpperDekker) June 9, 2014
Another witness reported that the carriage also hit a Mercedes, which then hit two people on bikes, although no injuries were reported:
— Scott Kevy (@ScottKevy) June 9, 2014
Here’s an image of the cab door, tweeted by NYCLASS, one of the main groups pushing for a carriage horse ban:
— NYCLASS (@NYCLASS) June 9, 2014
Both sides promptly issued statements to reporters. PETA spokesperson Dan Mathews told us, “This evening’s chaos in Central Park show the serious public safety menace caused by keeping horses in Manhattan, whether on the streets or in the park. This shows the urgency of Mayor de Blasio’s plan to protect people and animals by retiring the horses to sanctuaries.”
But the carriage drivers and their union argued that the incident showed the training of both the horse and the drivers. Through his union, Teamsters Joint Council 116, carriage driver and owner Stephen Malone said, “Neither the horse or any people were injured in today’s incident. What you saw is the industry’s professionalism. We knew where the horse would go, corralled it, and brought it back to the stable.”
Friends of Animals, another animal rights group that has long pushed for a ban on the carriages, isn’t buying it. “The carriage industry is trying to downplay this incident, but let’s be very clear–this was a screw-up of incredible magnitude,” their director, Edita Birnkrant, tells the Voice .
“The carriage industry is 100 percent responsible for this latest disaster in which the driver of Pumpkin failed to stop the horse from fleeing into the park,” she adds. “Do you realize the potential for harm and death that a runaway horse with no driver galloping the loop in Central Park could have caused, and especially considering the horse was heading out of the park until the passerby steered him elsewhere? I literally feel sick thinking about it.”
Christina Hansen, the carriage driver and spokesperson, tweeted a few images last night of Pumpkin standing in his stable. He looked unharmed, if a little ashamed of himself:
Pumpkin the carriage horse who did his usual loop by himself today, at home and getting checked by vet pic.twitter.com/En8GZ2fk5B
— Christina Hansen (@CarriageCavalry) June 10, 2014
This post has been updated with comments from Friends of Animals.